Top 10 things to do in Central Iowa this summer

photo Courtesy of Maria Teply (Communications Director Reiman Gardens) Elwood the Gnome located at Reiman Gardens in Ames.

Feel stuck inside because of COVID-19? No problem. Central Iowa is full of unique experiences and attractions that the whole family can enjoy throughout the summer months across all of central Iowa. From the world’s largest garden gnome, to a 21-foot tall ice cream cone, Central Iowa still has plenty for Iowans to explore and enjoy even with COVID-19 still lurking around.

Here are some fun activities and places to check out in Central Iowa during an uncertain summer.

1. Grimes Farm

One hundred sixty acres of natural timber, wetlands and forests are open to the public in this massive conservation center in Marshalltown. Visitors can check out guided tours of the unique landscapes in the conservation center and check out the nature playscape and observation tower and amphitheater. Trails and community events are open to the public year round and offer community members a chance to get into the surrounding nature.

Address: 2349 233rd St., Marshalltown

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday

Phone number: 641-752-5490

2. Pella Historical Dutch

Village and Vermeer Windmill

Visit Pella for the history of the dutch. In Pella’s Historical Village, visitors can see North America’s tallest windmill with five floors to visit. The windmill will open back up to the public on June 15. Take a self guided tour and explore the 22 buildings in Pella’s Historical Village in honor of Pella’s long-standing history. The village features a blacksmith, bakery, log cabin, a replica of the first church in Pella, an antique shoe store, a meat and cheese shop and more. And after almost two years of renovations, the Scholte House, the home of Pella’s founder Hendrik Peter Scholte and his wife Maria, will be open to the public July 1. Inside the Scholte House, Maria’s Tea Room is open for guests Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays by reservation only. Seatings for the tea room are at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and cost $12 per person. Reservations are available beginning June 3. Reservations must be made by noon the day before but guests are encouraged to plan at least a week in advance.

Address: 507 Franklin St., Pella

Hours: Historical Village – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday

Vermeer Mill tours – 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday

Photo courtesy of Andrew Potter Grimes Farm Observation Tower

Phone number: 641-620-9463

3. Matchstick Marvels (Gladbrook)

Want to see the Millenium Falcon, the International Space Station and Apollo 11 all in the same building? Head over to Gladbrook to visit Matchstick Marvels. The museum is the visionary work of Patrick Acton who has built 70 detailed scale models of famous pop culture figures, architecture and machinery with more than seven million wooden matchsticks. The museum costs $5 per adult, $3 ages 5-12 and free for ages 5 and under. Cash only for admission.

Hours: 1-5 p.m., Monday-Sunday

Address: 319 Second St., Gladbrook

Phone number: 641-473-2410

3. Mrshalltown trails

Marshalltown is well known for the trails it offers its residents to explore. The

Linn Creek Recreational Trail stretches about eight miles on the linear path throughout the city of Marshalltown and passes by Riverview Park, Nicholson-Ford OHV Park, the Marshalltown Family Aquatic Centerand the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center with its loops. Trail users can also see beautiful marshes, ponds and wildlife throughout the trail. Another trail that passes through Marshalltown is the 34 mile Iowa River Trail. This trail has the unique luxury of connecting seven cities and two counties to the Iowa River Greenbelt and Central Iowa Trail Network. It is located in an area known for its diverse wildlife and wetlands.

Hours: Dawn to dusk

5. Green Castle Recreation Area

An 11-mile trip outside of downtown Marshalltown will take you to Green Castle Recreation Area to see exhibits of many different species of animal life. Picnicking, hiking, fishing, and bird watching are all available to enjoy. A bison viewing area is also available.


7. SkyKone Ice Cream

In Ackley, stop by SkyKone Cafe and Skykone Ice Cream Stand to grab a frozen treat or nice meal. And while you enjoy your treat, it’ll be hard to miss the 21-foot ice cream cone that acts as the ice cream stand that can become mobile to take around to state fairs and nearby cities.

With more than 256 flavor combinations, SkyKone is a great frozen treat to stop by Ackley and try out.

Hours: Monday-Sunday 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.


8. Elwood the World’s Largest Concrete Gnome (Ames)

Inside Reiman Gardens in Ames lies the world’s largest concrete gnome named Elwood the Gnome. Located in the Home Production Garden, Elwood watches over the garden and is open for visitors to take pictures with him. Reiman Gardens is back open to the public on June 8. Reiman Gardens costs $10 for general admission, $9 for seniors 65 and older, $5 for kids ages 2-12 and free for kids 2 and younger.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.



9. Marshalltown Public Library

In a time where most Iowans are staying at home, the Marshalltown Public Library is offering curbside pickup and drop-offs for books for Marshalltown residents to enjoy. Residents can pick from whichever books they would like and then a library official will walk them out to your car. The library is still working on a phased reopening of the building to visitors but for now, residents can enjoy a good book in a safe curbside fashion.


Monday-Saturday (9 a.m.- 8 p.m.)

Sunday (1-4 p.m.)


10. High Trestle Trail Bridge

In Madrid, the High Trestle Trail Bridge stands over 130 feet tall and lights up the Des Moines River Valley in some of the most amazing displays of architecture in the state. Traveling through five towns and four counties, the bridge lights up its neon blue lights to illuminate all 41 steel frames on the bridge. From now until October, the bridge is lit up from sunset until midnight. You can travel the 20 mile trail and see one of Iowa’s most unique trails and pieces of architecture.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today